Influential folk singer-songwriter Judy Henske dies, aged 85

Her best-known single 'High Flying Bird' was covered by Jefferson Airplane, and inspired the name of Noel Gallagher's post-Oasis project

Judy Henske, an influential and charismatic figure in the American folk scene of the 1960s, has died at the age of 85.

Her husband and collaborator, the keyboardist Craig Doerge, said that Henske passed away on April 27 in a Los Angeles hospice after a long illness (per Variety). She is survived by Doerge, her daughter and granddaughter. Plans for a memorial are set to be announced soon.

Dubbed ‘The Queen Of The Beatniks’, a nickname given to her by the producer Jack Nitzsche, Henske’s live sets combined traditional and original material that spanned folk, blues, show tunes and jazz.

She was also known for her sarcastic and comedic stage presence. Henske was reportedly the inspiration for the title character in Annie Hall, whose director Woody Allen shared a stage with her in the 1960s.

Judy Henske circa 1970 (Picture: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

One of her best known songs, 1963’s ‘High Flying Bird’, was particularly influential in folk-rock, and was notably covered by Jefferson Airplane. It was also the inspiration behind the name of Noel Gallagher‘s post-Oasis project.

After finding early success with a slot on the early 1960s variety show Hootenanny, Henske joined The Whiskeyhill Singers with whom she recorded her first album.

Among her most acclaimed releases was 1969’s psychedelic ‘Farewell Aldebaran’, recorded with her then-husband Jerry Yester and released via Frank Zappa‘s Straight Records. They went on to form a short-lived band Rosebud, and released an eponymous follow-up in 1971.

Henske then largely retired from public life, focussing on songwriting and raising her daughter. In the 1990s she returned to live performance, and released two final albums – 1999’s ‘Loose In The World’ and 2004’s ‘She Sang California’. She was reportedly working on her memoirs before her death.